Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

ersonal protective equipment in the context of laser safety normally implies the use of laser protective eyewear. As with any PPE though, there are serious limitations when relying on laser protective eyewear alone. Notably, it requires careful selection against all possible wavelengths and as such, this could result in the need for more than one type of protective eyewear to cover all potential operating conditions. It also requires very careful training and supervision to ensure the eyewear is actually worn, particularly as laser eyewear, by its nature, will reduce normal viewing as well. In some cases, this will actually increase the risk, as people might be unable to see the beam or indeed any other non-beam hazard. Most importantly, when laser eye protection is required, it generally implies there is both an eye and a skin hazard. The risk to the skin must not be discounted, although the options for protection are significantly less.

If we assume that more than one person at any one time is likely to require suitable eye protection, the actual cost of implementing personal eye protection may be greater than the cost of implementing appropriate guarding and administrative controls, albeit with a lower level of confidence in its control.

To reiterate, personal protective eyewear must only be used where engineering and administrative controls cannot adequately control the risk.

Your supervisor must determine the need for personal protective equipment as part of the risk assessment process.  Laser eye protection should only be used if all other types of controls have first been considered and where a risk of exposure to a laser above the Maximum Permissible Exposure limit still remains. 

Where laser eye protection is deemed necessary, then the following must be applied:

  • There must be a documented in-house assessment of the required specification of eyewear for each type of laser, taking into account the varying wavelengths used and the degree of optical clarity required.  The assessment must state both the optical density and ‘scale factor’ attenuation for all relevant wavelengths. It is not appropriate to rely on laser equipment suppliers to undertake this assessment or specify eyewear. Eyewear must be selected against the relevant standard, BS EN 207 for general use and BS EN 208 for alignment procedures.
  • There must be evidence, either on the frames or in accompanying documents, that the eyewear used is CE marked and conforms to the required standard. Eyewear that does not meet these requirements must be replaced.
  • The protective eyewear should be labelled indicating which laser(s) and wavelengths they are suitable for.  
  • Where multiple lasers are used in a single area, then each set of protective eyewear must be unambiguously marked to ensure correct selection for the relevant laser.
  • When not in use, protective eyewear must be stored correctly to prevent damage. It must not be left on benches but stored in protective cases or suitable racking.
  • Individuals must be trained in the selection, fitting, storage, and inspection of protective eyewear.